Salad Bar Injustice: A Civil Heights Violation


I’m a tall person. In the past, this has worked to my benefit. I can reach stuff on the top shelf, I’m really good at being the monkey in the middle, and the general feeling of superiority I have in the elevator is addictive. In short (no pun intended), I’ve quite enjoyed the vertical advantage I have had over a majority of our society. Today, however, that all changed.

Up to this point, it had been a normal day by most standards. I went to work, looked at some papers, cavorted with my coworkers, and drank copious amounts of coffee. At lunch time, I deviated from my regular routine of staying on campus. It was a Friday, and I decided to pay a visit to the local grocery store. It was a grand opening, and I had heard rumors that this chain’s salad bars were pretty near top of the line. At my age, these things excite me.

Entering the store, I felt a sense of wonderment. Everything gave off a luster of being new, shiny, and modern. Upon seeing the salad bar off in the distance, though, I could tell something was amiss. Unsure of exactly what was raising my concern, I walked cautiously over to it. Once I stood face to face with the salad bar, it became readily apparent what the issue was going to be.

With my public health background, I can appreciate—and certainly see the validity of—having a clear plastic partition hanging over the salad bar. I prefer to call it the sneeze protector. Most of the salad bars I’ve come across in my travels leave enough room for a tall person’s arm to fit safely under the partition while still allowing said tall person to scoop salad accoutrements into the to-go container. It’s a relatively easy process that requires not much thought.

This partition was suspiciously low, almost as if it had been put together in Smurf Village and shipped to my current location. It was the epitome of a civil heights violation.

Determined to make a salad with the required ingredients I had sought, I maneuvered myself into position to scoop. I first tried putting my back into a limbo/yoga pose, leaning back slightly while slipping my right arm under the partition. It didn’t work. My lack of flexibility meant that I still wasn’t low enough to reach the romaine. I then tried leaning over the plastic partition, in a sort of haunting position (the kind you make when you act like a ghost to scare someone), and then sliding my arm in. That also didn’t work. My shoulder kept hitting the partition. Exasperated, I caught the eye of a rather tall store employee.

“Hey, what’s up with this salad bar?” I asked.

“Got me, man,” he responded with a shoulder shrug. “I don’t eat salad.”

Accepting that the salad bar had won the battle, I retreated over to the pretzel aisle to reconsider my plan of attack. Pretzels help me think. Confident I’d still win the war, I came up with a very brazen plan. I would get that damn salad or dislocate my shoulder trying.

So, I grabbed a bag of lightly salted pretzel twists, threw them into my hand cart, and headed back to the front lines. The salad bar looked at me, shrouded in a bright, sterile light, almost mocking me to try again. I’m pretty sure the elevator music playing overhead was the Rocky soundtrack, though I was too focused to say for sure.

There we were, mano-a-salad bar. I put my plan into motion, mostly because I was hungry but also because it was weird trying to stare down a salad bar.

“Ma’am, would you mind helping me scoop my salad?” I asked the deli clerk. “I hurt my shoulder and it’s still a little too sore to maneuver under the partition.”

“Absolutely,” she said.

I directed her to the requisite items my salad required: cucumbers, tomatoes, a little shredded cheese. All the while, the salad bar seethed in anger at my devious plan.

“What a great store you have here, but the salad bar leaves a lot to be desired. That partition is annoyingly low,” I told her, confident the brooding salad bar would hear my insult. I also gave that vengeful salad bar a subtle kick, out of the eyesight of the unknowing deli clerk.

I paid the cashier and then purposely took the exit that required me to pass by the sad salad bar one last time. I gave it a mocking wink and walked out, feeling tall and victorious once again.

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